July 22, 2011
Today was an epic day. This morning a taxi ride took us to the jungle of the ashram’s organic farm, where they produce all the fruits and vegetables to feed 1,500 people a day. They even grow all of the rice for the ashram. The only exception is the wheat for baking bread, as wheat only grows in North India.
Bug spray is a must!
Dan, our guide Deberatu in the center, and the organic farm director, Bhavaram on the right
One of our guides is a tall, lanky gentleman named Debabrata, which his mother gave him because it means “divine mission.” He has lived at the ashram for 35 years. He used to be a follower of Vivekenanda, but when he was 21 he discovered the Mother. It’s a great story, I’ll post about it later.
The fragrant champa flower, which has over 200 varieties. The other day I bought some locally made champa soap and it smells up the whole bathroom.
The farm is not like our mono-cultured crops, all the plants in perfect rows. The farm mirrors how plants grow in nature, all the plants mixed up. The farm workers know where all the plants are, they are clearly identifiable and cannot get misplaced. Some crops are grown alongside other plants that promote pollination. This model is much healthier for the plants, and less work for the humans. They use the in situ composting technique, which means that vegetable debris is thrown directly into the garden beds, instead of being left to decompose in a pile first. Soil is layered with vegetable matter, so it can fertilize directly in the beds.
In situ composting: Potato plants with hibiscus flowers layered on beds
The farm also has a medicinal herb garden, for teaching about the healing power of plants.
This herb’s leaves are used to heal any mouth sores and also doubles as a mouth freshener!
Cinnamon! Smells like Christmas…
Basil, which looks different than Oregon basil but tastes similar
Our tour only took us through a tiny bit of the 42 acres, yet we saw dozens of different crops. Keri and I took a million photos!
Henna! The root of the henna plant is used to cure jaundice, the leaves are used to treat kidney stones when combined with wild radish. The fruit is dried and ground up to make red hair dye. What a helpful plant…
This leaf is ground up to make black hair dye. I didn’t catch the name of it.
The hibiscus flower is made into a syrup, which has a cooling effect. The flower is also combined with coconut oil and used as a hair conditioner treatment.
Guavas are like apples here, I eat them everyday. It’s wonderful.
The Callotropis flower. The milk is poisonous, but it is used to cure migraines. One must use a needle to prick the temple and release pressure, and then rub the milk on the temples. The plant is also rich in potassium, and so is used in the beds as compost to balance out the nitrogen in the soil.
The pineapple plant. Most people think they grow on trees, when in fact they are actually a tiny shrub.
Palm fruit, which has a high sugar content. The fruit is mixed with cow urine and used as a fertilizer.
At the end of our tour we were given a feast of raw coconut, mango, papaya. The coconut water is delicious, which we drank through all natural straws made from papaya leaves. After we finished the liquid they machete’ed the coconuts open and we ate the soft meat with spoons. Fully grown coconuts soak up all their water inside and the meat gets thicker and tougher. We had juice all over everywhere. Delicieuse! Debabrata said they don’t get many visitors, so they love to show people around. Such nice people.